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Mental health: Children’s services a ‘postcode lottery’

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the top 25% of local areas spent at least £1.1 mil The top 25% of local areas spent at least £1.1 million or more, while the bottom 25% spent £180,000 or less

There are wide variations between areas in how much funding for children’s mental health services is available, a report by the Children’s Commissioner has found.

The report shows that the top 25% of local areas spent at least £1.1 million or more, while the bottom 25% spent £180,000 or less. It also reveals that local areas, which included both local authorities and NHS spending, allocated a total of £226 million for low-level mental health services in 2018/19, just over £14 per child.

According to the commissioner, this postcode lottery comes at a time when the Government has made more funding available for children’s mental health nationally as the number of children in need of support and treatment from children’s mental health services has increased over the last decade.

‘This report reveals for the first time the postcode lottery facing the increasing number of children suffering from low-level mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. It is extremely worrying that a third of local areas in England are actually reducing real terms spending on these vital services,’ said Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.

‘The children I speak to who are suffering from conditions like anxiety and depression aren’t asking for intensive in-patient therapeutic treatment, they just want to be able to talk to a counsellor about their worries and to be offered advice on how to stop their problems turning into a crisis.’

While the total reported spend on low-level mental health services across all areas in England increased by 22% between 2016/17 and 2018/19 in cash terms, and by 17% in real terms, over a third of areas around the country still saw a real-terms fall in spending – with nearly 60% of local authorities seeing a real-terms fall.

‘The NHS Ten Year Plan has made children’s mental health a top priority, but it won’t succeed unless children with low-level mental health problems are offered help quickly and early,’ added Ms Longfield.

‘Local authorities are under huge financial pressure and many are doing a good job, but those who are spending barely anything on low-level mental health cannot continue to leave children to struggle alone.’

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